|By Lee Simon / The General Group / March 2008|
Flexibility: The Ultimate Trend in Hospitality Design
|Quite rapidly, it seems that our global society has adopted a common
trait – we want what we want, when we want it. Yesterday’s amenities,
which provided added benefits to the guest experience, have quickly evolved
into today’s expectations. The internet, e-mail, on-demand movies
and television programming, satellite radio, and general pace of life have
all impacted the way that we live our lives – and the way that we expect
those providing services deemed essential to support our new lifestyles.
There are few industries which have been impacted by these new expectations
as significantly as the hospitality industry. In fact, I believe
that the need for flexibility may have become the single most dominant
trend in hospitality design, as it allows or limits the ability for operators
to address other trends that appear on the horizon. After all, doesn’t
the facility typically outlive most trends that come and go?
What Meal Periods?
I have written about the topic if flexibility in the past, but my focus at that time was on the equipment and infrastructure which continue to limit the ability of foodservice operators to respond to guest demands. Over the past several years, however, I have noticed that this need for flexibility within foodservice facilities is permeating the entire facility, from the back-of-house to the front-of-house and every area in between. Meal periods have evolved into a free form and less rigid format, blurred to accommodate our hectic daily lives.
Those in the industry often use the term “day-parts” to describe the timing opportunities within an average day when customers may utilize the foodservice venues. The traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner day-parts have long since been joined by their new peers. There is no better example than Taco Bell’s recently coined “Fourth Meal.” It is a brilliant marketing strategy which defines a new late night meal period. Thirty years ago, the concept of a late night meal period would have seemed farfetched, whereas today it is a reality. Similarly, for some concepts, the periods between breakfast and lunch, and between lunch and dinner, have emerged as independent opportunities that in many cases have resulted in customized menus and unique service offerings. Operators who have carefully studied and adapted to the new demands of a more flexible and demanding society have turned downtime within their foodservice operations into independent revenue generating day-parts.
Overcoming Physical Limitations
The ability for an operator to recognize this trend, and the desire to capitalize upon such opportunities, are wonderful first steps – but frustration often sets in when the facility becomes a key limiting factor. Though the desire may be there, the physical plant in many cases prevents the operator from following through on initial intentions. For this reason, I have noticed (and proposed) an increased focus on the flexibility of foodservice facilities – especially in the front-of-house guest areas – during renovation and new construction projects over the past several years.
If you are a frequent reader of my columns, then you know that I am not a fan of dropping abstract ideas and running away. On the contrary. I make it a priority to provide specific examples. I want you to have something tangible to take away with you when you are done reading this installment. So, here you are – a series of ideas to demonstrate the kind of flexibility to which I am referring. Some of these are concepts we have developed for our clients. Others are ones that I have seen implemented successfully by other designers. Hopefully, these ideas – or others that they inspire – will help you increase the flexibility of your foodservice facility.
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